Andrews, Sir John Lawson Ormrod (‘Jack’) (1903–86), politician and businessman, was born 15 July 1903 at Maxwell Court, Comber, Co. Down, the only son among the three children of John Miller Andrews (qv), later prime minister of Northern Ireland (1940–43), and his wife, Jessie, daughter of Joseph Ormrod, stockbroker, of Bolton.
When Jack Andrews was born his family had been embedded in northern commercial and political life for several generations. At the end of the eighteenth century his ancestor John Andrews (1721–1808) was already established in the flax business at Comber. John was succeeded by his son James, who in turn was succeeded by his son John jr (1782–1865), the subject's great-grandfather. In 1863 John jr put the family business on a solid footing when he founded the flax mill and spinning firm John Andrews & Co. Three of John jr's sons, including the eldest, Thomas (qv) (1843–1916), Jack's grandfather, joined the venture and helped to expand the family fortune. As well as being chairman of the family firm, Thomas was chairman of the Co. Down Railway Company, president (1892–1916) of the Ulster Liberal Unionist Association, and a privy councillor (1903). A brother of Thomas, William Drennan Andrews (b. 1832), was a judge (1882) of the exchequer in the high court of Ireland and a privy councillor (1897).
The success of the family continued into the next generation. John Miller Andrews, the subject's father, was prime minister, while one of his brothers, Sir James Andrews (qv) (1877–1951), was lord chief justice of Northern Ireland (1937–50) and another, Thomas (qv) (1873–1912), was managing director and chief designer with Harland and Wolff; he was the chief designer of the Titanic and drowned on board the ship in 1912.
Jack Andrews was educated at Mourne Grange preparatory school and Shrewsbury before serving his apprenticeship in the flax trade. He joined the family firm in 1922 and in 1927 became managing director. In 1953 he continued the family tradition in unionist politics when he succeeded his father as Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP for Mid Down (1953–64) at Stormont, and in 1957 he was appointed minister of health and local government (1957–61). Four years later his commercial standing and experience were put to use with his appointment as minister of commerce (1961–3). He was one of three senior figures in 1963 in the running to succeed Lord Brookeborough (qv) as leader of the UUP and premier of Northern Ireland (the other two candidates were Captain Terence O'Neill (qv), who ultimately succeeded Brookeborough, and the future premier Brian Faulkner (qv)). Following O'Neill's success, Andrews served as minister of finance and deputy prime minister until a cabinet reshuffle in the summer of 1964, when he left the commons to become leader of the NI senate with ministerial rank. Although this was a cabinet position, it held little political kudos and was perceived as a demotion designed to neutralise Andrews as a rival to O'Neill.
When O'Neill resigned in 1969 he appeared to favour Andrews as his successor, but the latter refused to allow his name to go forward. Instead O'Neill was succeeded by Major James Chichester Clark (qv). However, Andrews remained prominent in Northern Ireland politics. Against the backdrop of widespread civil disorder in 1969 he accompanied the new prime minister to Whitehall for a meeting with the British government that led to the British army assuming control of the security of Northern Ireland. As unionists became increasingly divided, Andrews remained committed to his liberal principles. During two by-election campaigns in 1970, in Bannside and South Antrim, he spoke in favour of pluralism and inclusive unionism. In his speeches he argued that Edward Carson (qv), James Craig (qv), and his own father had never hated any man because of his religion and that the unionism in which they believed was outward-looking ‘Greater Britishness’ rather than the narrow-minded and sectarian ‘little Ulster’ politics favoured by Paisley. During a speech on 8 April 1970 he explicitly refused to countenance the idea of ‘protestant unionism’.
When Faulkner succeeded Chichester Clark as prime minister he relied heavily on the advice and loyalty of Andrews. In the political crisis of 1972 that led to the suspension of the Stormont administration and parliament and the imposition of direct rule, both men travelled to Downing Street for talks. Two years later Andrews resigned as president of the Ulster Unionist Council in response to its decision to reject the Sunningdale agreement of December 1973 and in sympathy with the resignation of Faulkner as unionist leader. He joined the latter in the moderate Unionist Party of Northern Ireland and was elected president.
In 1957 Andrews was sworn of the privy council (Northern Ireland) and in 1961 he was made DL for Co. Down. He was awarded a KBE in 1974. A member of Comber non-subscribing presbyterian church, he served as its chairman for many years.
In May 1928 Andrews married Marjorie Elaine Maynard James, the youngest daughter of Alfred Morgan James of the Fields, Newport, Monmouthshire, with whom he had three sons and a daughter. His wife died in 1980 and he died, following an illness of many months, on 12 January 1986, aged eighty-two. Many of the papers relating to the family business of John Andrews & Co., as well as the papers of his uncle Sir James Andrews, are held in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.